I haven’t written in a while. And by a while, I mean, like, over 2 years. That’s OK, right? No?
I’m sorry. I was kinda going through a lotta shit, you know?
Like the kinda shit where you’ve been in a relationship for 8 years and over half of them were unhappy, and it takes you nearing the end of your third decade on this earth to realise that this is not an OK way to live your life?
That it’s crazy, when you think about it, to meet someone from a different country online when you’re 20, carry on an almost-entirely digital relationship with him for 4 years and then move your entire life overseas to go be with him?
I suppose I should clarify. I have no regrets moving from Florida to the UK, because my life is awesome now. It’s infinitely more awesome than it would have been if I’d stayed in my hometown, or gone off to grad school somewhere on the west coast like I was planning. And I undoubtedly have my ex-husband to thank in part for giving me the emotional support it took to set up home in one of the busiest and most expensive capital cities in the world. …Even if it was primarily my student loans that gave us the financial support in that first year.
What I’m getting at is that I spent 8 years of my life with someone who just wasn’t right for me. Who didn’t share my every day interests, let alone my life ambitions. Who I raged at internally, day after day, week after week, month after month and year after year – for not being the person I wanted him to be. I tried to change him. But being open and outgoing and loving just wasn’t his thing. And who was I to try to change that, really?
Even before I expatriated, things were hard. I broke it off twice because of how unhappy I was with how we communicated, and the lack of sexual chemistry we had. He convinced me it was because of the distance. It sounded plausible. And I was already too invested. I had put 4 years into this relationship. I had no evidence to suggest that things would be anything else but perfect once we were together. He pointed out that our holidays had always been fun…
I had to jump head first into the cold pool of uncertainty, or else I’d forever be wading along the edges until the autumn came – my chance to swim, gone – regretfully wondering what could have been.
So I got myself accepted to grad school in London. And I moved my entire life overseas in 2 trunks and a suitcase. I got married because it was an easier visa to get in the long run.
But when the initial shine of living in the same time zone wore into a blemished patina, our differences began to come through. He didn’t do feelings and emotions. He wasn’t keen on talking about wants and needs, much less fulfilling them on a mutual basis. I learned to bottle things up. Never talk about what was bothering me. Slowly accept that marriage was about compromise, even if it was me doing all the compromising.
It was sometime after the abortion that I noticed the ugly tarnish. It took another year and a half of me trying to get it out before it struck me: I spent so much time scrubbing at the tarnish of my failed relationship because I thought it was me who was tarnished. I worried there was nothing better out there for me. I had spent so long in an unfulfilling relationship – one that had started when I was essentially a child – that I almost didn’t know any better. My self-worth was rock-bottom.
We went on one final holiday that I’d booked months in advance. The thing I wanted most for my 29th birthday was to go back in time. I knew that wasn’t possible, so the next best thing was to fly home and be with my sister. It was so much fun – eating, drinking, laughing.
It threw the time we spent alone in the hotel into sharp relief. We were over.
So when we got home, I ripped the relationship off like a Band-Aid. He told me he saw it coming. But – true to form – he did nothing, said nothing. I met up with my best friend on the day I did it, and she summed it up well: “It’s about fucking time.”
And that, folks, is why I stopped writing.
I needed the space to relearn what it was like to be me. Without the fear that people who knew the old me would be watching.
I thought I’d spend at least a year slutting it up around town, experiencing all the things I hadn’t got a chance to experience in my 20s, due to my miserable-but-committed relationship status. But kismet had other ideas.
A caring, compassionate and empathetic man at work struck up a conversation with me one day, in spite of my generally stony and closed-off demeanour, and we became fast friends. He didn’t know what I was going through at first. And I let him carry on thinking that I was a married woman. By the time I’d told him what my deal was, he had me so friend-zoned that I had to practically beg him to go out with me.
And by “beg” I mean “appear aloof until he came to his senses”.
We have spent nearly every day together since. He’s taught me to open up. He’s taught me to be myself. He’s taught me that I’m a person worthy of being loved. Most importantly, he’s taught me how fulfilling a good relationship is.
He married me 2 weeks ago.
And he encouraged me to write again.